Newsroom Midwest Region

What to do when your house catches the attention of woodpeckers

A red-bellied woodpecker perched on a building
Red-bellied woodpecker perched on a building. Photo by Courtney Celley/USFWS.

We at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service know that living close to wooded areas and other natural habitats provides great opportunities to observe birds and other wildlife. Sometimes wildlife can get a little too close for comfort. We often get questions about how to deter woodpecker activity on homes. Your first thought might be to view woodpeckers as pests and call a local pest control company to remove them. Before you pick up the phone, take a moment to read this.

Most birds are protected

Almost all birds native to the United States, including their nests and eggs, are protected by a federal law that has been in place since 1918. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects more than a thousand species of birds, including woodpeckers. Don’t let the name fool you though, protection is not limited to only individual birds or species that migrate. Check out the complete list of species protected by the Act.

With this huge group of protected birds, and varying legal methods for handling unwanted bird activity on your property, you may feel overwhelmed. If you live in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio or Wisconsin and you have woodpecker activity at your home that you feel needs to be addressed, we can help. Call our Migratory Birds Program at 612-713-5436 and our wildlife professionals will help you assess the situation and find legal solutions.

Why are woodpeckers interested in my home?

Your house may catch the attention of woodpeckers for a few reasons. In some cases, woodpecker activity may alert you to a larger problem. Just like people, woodpeckers need food and shelter. If woodpeckers are starting to peck at your house, inspect your siding for insect damage. It’s likely that the woodpeckers are going after a tasty treat within the wood. In other cases, the woodpecker may be looking for a place to nest. If your house has any areas where wood is rotting, it can be particularly appealing to cavity nesting birds and other unwanted wildlife. Addressing any insect issues or rotting wood can help protect your home from unwelcome visitors. Sometimes woodpeckers are only looking for a place to stash some food or an easy way to communicate. Woodpeckers have even been spotted banging on street signs to amplify their drumming!

Be smart and stay legal

When dealing with any protected species, it’s essential to be smart and stay legal. Breaking conservation laws can have dire effects on wildlife and expensive consequences for you or others involved. That was the result in a recent case involving a Wisconsin pest control company. In 2015, the company owner appeared in state court, pled guilty to several state violations and paid $4,185 in fines and restitution to the state of Wisconsin for illegally killing 108 woodpeckers for approximately 30 customers.

As we mentioned earlier, woodpeckers have special federal protection, but there are legal avenues for removing unwanted birds on a case by case basis. As homeowners, you have the right to maintain your property and the responsibility to work with us to develop the best way to mitigate bird activity. In this case, the homeowners did not reach out to us to seek professional advice or permits to have the woodpeckers removed. In cases like these, homeowners are also liable for the illegal removal of protected species.

If you have woodpecker activity at your home that you feel needs to be addressed, we can help. If you live in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio or Wisconsin call our Migratory Birds Program at 612-713-5436 and our wildlife professionals will help you assess the situation to find legal solutions.

A red-headed woodpecker perched on a tree
Red-headed woodpecker perched on a tree. Photo by Jim Hudgins/USFWS.